James Harden to the Rockets

Well, this will certainly be the topic-de-jour until the start of the season – James Harden is now a Rocket. I feel like it’s cliche to say “this was a good trade for both teams” but it’s probably true in this case. OKC clearly did not want to pay Harden max-money to come off the bench, and there are a number of teams that would have signed him to such a deal. Houston’s assets merely allow them to move to the front of the line and not worry about an offer getting matched – a luxury they could not afford with the Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik signings.

From OKC’s long-term perspective, this is the best you could have hoped for – Kevin Martin provides efficient scoring whenever Durant or Westbrook are on the bench, and Jeremy Lamb’s best case scenario (according to Draft Express) is…Kevin Martin. And while he’s generally thought of as a shooter, the most overlooked aspect of Martin’s game is his ability to get to the line, where he’s also an excellent shooter. This tapered off a bit last year, but still demonstrates that he’s more than just a jump-shooter and can replace much (though not all) of Harden’s production. The two first-rounders and one second-round pick are also now assets that OKC can stack to acquire another piece, such as a backup combo forward.

For the Rockets it’s obviously been a crazy offseason. It all started with their attempts to grab Dwight by offering a bizarre mix of middling first-round picks. Then the actual draft came around, and Houston said, “hey, we’ve historically been pretty good at drafting – we’ll even pick the guys out for you!” and Orlando still wouldn’t bite.

I do like this move for the Rockets, even though Lin and Harden both need the ball in their hands in order to succeed – when on-court together, it should allow for the player who draws the weaker defender to take advantage of them. While I consider Lin an “opportunist” type of player, Harden is much more of a pick-and-roll ballhandler, willing to do creative things like split the defenders and reject the pick in order to get to the basket.

As for the rest of the Rockets, I did not understand the contract Omer Asik signed at all. He played less than 1000 minutes last year and seemed to produce decent rebounding numbers and little more. But the Rockets have the reputation for being a team that uses advanced statistics to assess their players, and maybe one of his missed free throws caused a buffer overflow in the software.

That said, I do like the idea of building your team around the PG and C, and filling in the rest as you go. I thought the Rockets were going to be overlooked going into this season, but that is no longer going to be the case. Chandler Parsons is a capable SF – a monstrous dunker who does lots of small things to help a team win. They are bringing in last year’s draft pick, Donatas Motiejunas, a 7-footer who seems to have quite a few interesting skills. Patrick Patterson should also benefit from another season of tutelage from Kevin McHale. And this year’s draft picks, Terrence Jones and Royce White, both bring unique skillsets to the game and should be interesting players to watch.

I have a feeling I’m going to be watching this team quite a bit on NBA League Pass this year – at first cheering for them, then probably against them as I expect them to battle my Timberwolves for a playoff spot.

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